The Ultimate Challenge: A Heroic Life as Spiritual Fathers

Most men what to live a heroic life.  It may or may not include grandiose plans, but it is always a need to make a difference in our world.  We need a little corner of the world where we can be a hero.  It could be saving the world, or working at the local soup kitchen, or just working 50 hours a week to put food on the table, or to be a father or grandfather to their kids, and a million things in between.  Heroes come in all sizes and shapes!

But for years our culture has pummeled men for being men.  More specifically it has been the radical feminists—an offshoot of the political philosophy of Marxism—they go way beyond simple equal rights.  Men are to be hated, they are rapists, and oppressors that women need to be liberated from.  To quote Robin Morgan, past editor of Ms. Magazine, “I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them.”  Or Sheila Cronin with NOW, “Since marriage constitutes slavery for women [because ‘Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice.’ Andrea Dworkin], it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.” They are also not willing to leave the attack just on men or marriage, but add the family: Linda Gordon, “The nuclear family must be destroyed… Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process.” I would say de-evolutionary process!  Annihilating sex roles is another stated goal.

If you haven’t noticed, they have been very, very effective!  Facebook now has 51, 56, or 58 different options for gender depending on the story you read.  So called gay marriage will destroy marriage and families.  Men are confused about their role in society, marriage, and family. The culture has always contributed to men’s identity more than women due to biology and the role of a woman’s body bearing and feeding children.   Men are in an identity crisis!  Men have been excluded from the process of conception by sperm banks; relegated in large part to the buffoon or playboy status in TV programs and movies; and generally not needed for raising kids.  I am not blaming them entirely; they are only doing things that are consistent to what they believe.  Our response has been woefully inadequate.  We are individually and as a Church at fault for not digging in, discovering what it means to be a Catholic man and then spreading the good news.

But there is an elephant in the living room and no one is talking about it! With the help of divorce, addictions, abuse, the feminists, and LGBT crowd, men, marriage and the family have been successfully attacked.  We have forty percent of kids growing up in fatherless homes!  The elephant is fatherlessness!  Fatherlessness has proven direct links to increased criminality, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, poor school performance, premature sexuality, and out-of-wedlock births among teenagers, gender confusion.  It increases the number of women and children in poverty, the likelihood of childhood sexual abuse or child abuse skyrockets, teen runaways and homelessness, gang involvement, and the risk of suicide attempts and completions by teens.   This is the short list, and it is well documented elsewhere (see David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America).

If the radical feminists have a problem with men who rape, or are brutal and dominate women and children.  Good!  So do I and the Church does to!  These are not men living out a heroic life, a Catholic vison on masculinity!  But fatherlessness is producing more and more of these men.  Destroy marriage, destroy the family and you get more brutal, dominating men who rape!  Two FBI crime stats show an astounding increase in violent crimes and rape: 10 violent crime events per 100,000 people in 1940 to 252 events per 100,000 in the last few years; 2.1 rape events in 1940 to 35 events per 100,000.  Then, most if not all the mass shootings, and according to a study the riots in Baltimore involve mostly fatherless young men.  That is one large elephant in the room!

The elephant has not escaped Cardinal Ratzinger, a.k.a., Pope Benedict XVI, who said 2002, “The crisis of fatherhood that we are experiencing today is a basic aspect of the crisis that threatens mankind as a whole.”  He is not prone to exaggeration!  If “fatherhood is perceived only as a biological accident” or “the father is seen as a tyrant whose yoke must be thrown off,” then, “something in the basic structure of human existence has been damaged.” St. John Paul II used to say “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family” (Familiaris Consortio, 75).  Based on all of this I would hasten to add that “The future of the family passes through fatherhood.”  I am not trying to set up a competition between men and women.  If men were living out a healthy fatherhood, they would create places where mothers and children flourish. 

On to other elephants: Juvenile delinquent elephants were responsible for the senseless slaughter of 39 rare white rhinos in a South African wildlife preserve during the 1990’s.  They formed gangs and became neighborhood bullies, throwing sticks and water at the rhinos.  They became sexually active sooner, produced excessive testosterone, and displayed abnormally aggressive behavior.  A few of the ring leaders got very violent, knocking over the rhinos and either stepping on them or kneeling on them to crush them to death.  What was the problem?  The park rangers realized they had thinned the herd and killed the adult males in the preceding decade.   And so, the young elephants grew up fatherless. The solution was to bring a large bull who could establish dominance and teach them to curb their sexuality and aggression.  Mafuto, who was the gang leader, could not be rehabilitated and had to be executed by the authorities.  Sound familiar?  The other young bulls were fathered and saved!

Cardinal Ratzinger gets it!  “If human existence is to be complete, we need a father, in the true meaning of fatherhood that our faith discloses, namely, a responsibility for one’s child that does not dominate him but permits him to become his own self.”  My circumstances as childless married man, the state of our culture with rampant fatherlessness and all of its reverberations has caused me to develop a comprehensive vision of masculinity.  There are four components which I will be unpacking over the next months.  Vatican II taught that there is a universal call to holiness—it’s not just for priests and religious anymore.  I am sounding the universal call for all men, young, old, single, married, kids or no kids, to join me in living a heroic life as spiritual fathers lived out in chivalry as priest, prophet, and king.  This is the ultimate challenge!  This is the new evangelization!  The stakes are high, the life or death of masculinity, marriage, family, and our culture.  We need to live out what we were created to be! Start at home if you have kids, and ask them how you could you love them more and then do it!  Join me in living heroic life by spiritually adopting 3 younger men in your life, start with praying for them and then start doing things with them.  Teach them how to be a man by living the heroic life as spiritual fathers.

Cardinal Ratzinger gets it!  “If human existence is to be complete, we need a father, in the true meaning of fatherhood that our faith discloses, namely, a responsibility for one’s child that does not dominate him but permits him to become his own self.” But also avoids “the unquestioning acceptance of the child as he is, under the pretext that this is the expression of freedom.”.


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Dave McClow, M.Div., LSCW, LMFT, is a pastoral counselor, writer, and speaker. He works with Dr. Greg Popcak at the Pastoral Solutions Institute as a Clinical Pastoral Counseling Associate and provides tele-counseling services to Catholics internationally (check us out at, or call to schedule an appointment:  740-266-6461).  For over 30 years he has served in many capacities in the mental health and addictions fields.  He is the founder of four text ministries for men: “Faith on The Phone,” “Fasting on the Phone,” “Pure Hearts” and The Abba Challenge  for Rekindle the Fire’s men’s group and is active on its central core team. He and his wife converted to the Catholic Church in 1996.  He was a catechist for 15 years in his diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.  He is currently developing a comprehensive Catholic vision of masculinity that he believes is an integral and leveraged component of the New Evangelization.  It is summarized in The Abba Prayer for Men found at with more at The Ultimate Challenge: Men & Faith.

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